Syllabi available by request.
The Authoritarian Personality: History and Theory
Can you pick a fascist out of a crowd? Can crowds turn ordinary people into authoritarian zombies? This course offers an overview of the development of psychological research into authoritarianism. Our inquiry will unfold in four stages. Part I examines the emergence of the authoritarian personality—in rumor and reality—in interwar Europe. Part II looks at texts like Wilhelm Reich’s Mass Psychology of Fascism and Margaret Mead’s And Keep Your Powder Dry… that prepared the ground for Theodor Adorno’s infamous Authoritarian Personality (1950). Part III deals with the search for anti-authoritarian personalities, and in Part IV we turn to writers like Natasha Lennard and Peter Gordon who are updating this research tradition to respond to contemporary political developments.
Back to the Land: Agrarian Communalism in Western Europe and the U.S., 1880-1990
As the 19th century drew to a close, many Westerners alarmed by the march of ‘industrial civilization’ began to form clubs, communes, corporations and political parties grounded in the belief that humanity could only be saved by a collective return to Nature. From the 1880s-1980s, this paradisiacal vision of the simple life attracted rebels from across the political spectrum. Although many people associate ‘back-to-the-landers’ with long-haired, sandal-wearing vegetarian pot-smokers, variants of agrarian communalism have been embraced by fascists, libertarians, socialist Zionists and radical feminists. In this course, we will analyze the appeal and impact of the back-to-the-land ideology. The class will be structured around four linked studies, dealing with pastoralists in late Victorian England, Fascist ruralism, the hippy movement, and the Aryan Cowboys who burst into public view at the Ruby Ridge Massacre.
Subaltern Studies: A Global History
This course will trace the development of subaltern studies from World War I to the present day. We will pay close attention to how the study of subaltern history upsets standard narratives about the nature of poverty, rationality, modernity, and development. Key authors include Antonio Gramsci, Ernesto de Martino, Eric Hobsbawm, Dipesh Chakrabarty, Gayatri Spivak, John Beverley María Josefina Saldaña-Portillo. Some knowledge of Marx required.
What Was Cultural Studies?
Browse through the “Cultural Studies” section of your local bookstore and you are bound to find works on a dizzying array of topics: close readings of vampire films, thick monographs on postcolonial theory, and slender historical treatises on the cubicle. What do these books have in common? How did this become what we call culture and its study? This course examines the origins, development and institutionalization of cultural studies in Britain, between 1956-1978. The problems that compelled British socialists in this period to develop new methodologies for the study of culture were not so different from those that plague our own time; they too were concerned with changes in the ‘traditional working-class’, with the promises and menaces inherent in new communications technologies and the rise authoritarian populism. Some key works we will study include The Long Revolution by Raymond Williams, E.P. Thompson’s The Making of the English Working Class and Policing the Crisis, collectively authored by Stuart Hall and his colleagues at the Birmingham Center for Contemporary Cultural Studies. By the end of the course we may hope to gain both a deeper understanding not only of what cultural studies meant in Britain before Thatcher but also what it might become now, in America under Trump.
The Voice of the Past: Aural History from the Golden Age of Radio to Today
What happens when we use our ears to understand the past? What kinds of historical narratives are most suited for the sound-waves and how should we judge these narratives? In this course, we will seek to both historicize the ongoing ‘podcast revolution’ and expand the critical toolbox students can draw on to evaluate history that is written to be heard. For practical reasons, the course will focus on audio-documentaries produced in and for the Anglophone world. Students will be asked to use critically analyze the rhetoric, ideology, accuracy and archival practices of popular, historically inflected programs–such as The Last Archive, This American Life, and Radiolab–as well as experimental documentaries. Our goal here is not only to judge these works of aural history but also to reflect on their social significance. To this end, we will compare such programs to documentaries and dramas from the so-called ‘golden age of radio’ (1920s-1960s) and to academic scholarship dealing with phenomena discussed on air. Additionally, since podcasters are often praised for helping to democratize the radio, we will pay special attention to previous waves of democratizers, especially the ‘pirate radio’ and ‘audioblogging’ movements of the 1970s and 1980s. Practical guidance will be available to students who want to produce podcasts for the class, but this will not be a requirement.